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The Buddhas left their Sutras
Because people are hard to change
It’s not just a matter of saintly or stupid
Each and every heart throws up its barricade
Each piles up his own mountain of karma
How could they guess that what
They clasp so close is sorrow
Unwilling to ponder, as day and night
They do embrace the falsehood of the ephemeral
~ Shih-te

At the root of all the economic problems is money or perceived lack thereof. We have forgotten that money is a token, a symbol of wealth that has no intrinsic value. So the entire fate of the world hinges on an empty conceit. In the 21st century when we have manipulated genes, explored outer space and have instant access to more information than we know what to do with, surely we can figure out a system of accounting to replace the clearly broken system that has been in place for the last ten thousand years?

It is difficult to displace such an entrenched paradigm, so entrenched that most people cannot even conceive that there could be an alternative. The silver lining to the current economic crisis could be that people will be forced, perhaps for the first time, to examine their unconscious assumptions and stretch their cognitive range to allow for a different approach.

The world is in crisis on every front. There are environmental, social and political problems all underpinned by an economic system that skews the distribution of wealth toward the already wealthy while depriving the majority. That system is itself in meltdown and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot seem to figure out how to put it back together again. Alternative ideas put forward under the banner of ecological economics attempt to address one aspect or other of the problem but do not alter substantially the system. Tinkering around the edges is not enough to bring about a transformation of people’s relationship to the environment and to each other.

In the end, those gambling in Las Vegas lose more than they gain. As a society, we are gambling – with our big banks, with our nuclear power facilities, with our planet. As in Las Vegas, the lucky few – the bankers that put our economy at risk and the owners of energy companies that put our planet at risk – may walk off with a mint. But on average and almost certainly, we as a society, like all gamblers, will lose.
- Joseph Stiglitz

The prevailing idea of wealth is based on material considerations centered on the production, consumption and accumulation of goods and services. Oil- and mineral-rich nations for example are afforded an enviable advantage derived purely from the accident of their geology. No account is taken of the destruction of the environment caused by the extraction process. Money, originally a token symbol to facilitate trading has become itself a commodity, the supply of which has been made scarce, depriving billions of access to essentials and condemning them to a meager subsistence.

Corporations whose sole responsibility is to make a profit, speculate on perturbations to the system like disasters, weather events and crop failures which affect supply, inflating prices out of the reach of the poor. A perception of scarcity and limited resources, whether real or induced, creates fear, leading to greed, strife and cut-throat competition. It is a zero-sum game, winner-take-all, a volatility exemplified in cycles of boom and bust. The free market is much touted for its efficiency but is this any way to run an economy? It is akin to a householder betting their wages on the horses and the ruinous effect that has on the family, yet the more races run and money bet, the better the economy.

New Planetary Economy

To replace the irrational, inequitable and inefficient monetary economic system which prevails, a new rational, self-regulating system is necessary to meet current and projected global realties. The present model is ultimately based on the barter mechanism which grew into trade and digital exchange. Units of exchange came to be standardized to facilitate trade but the issuing of these units is strictly controlled, creating an artificial scarcity, and converting the currency into a tradable commodity itself. These units are further hoarded and manipulated in such a way as to create debt, inequity and poverty.

ASSUMPTIONS
The planet can sustain all life on it, though not at the level of consumption that obtains in developed countries. Everyone and everything has value. The sum of all unit values is Net Planetary Value. Value is potential until triggered into manifestation by activity. People realize value by accessing goods and services.

MECHANISM
Each entity – individual, corporate, municipal, national, bioregional – is assigned an index relative to its contribution to NPV, which index determines its level of access to goods and services. Particular elements or activities may be indexed positively or negatively as it affects populations, infrastructure or the environment. Indices are computed algorithmically from a matrix of nine criteria: ethical, social and environmental qualified by a time dimension that embeds past provenance, present utility and future impact. Entities acknowledge each transaction by digital and/or biometric means. Data is transmitted to a distributed network which continuously updates all indices using algorithms in a self-regulating feedback loop. Built-in checks and balances adjust indices to mitigate excesses, waste and abuse.

IMPLEMENTATION
Since it is not dependent or contingent upon monetary values, NPV can be implemented by any functioning economic unit. It will run parallel to the monetary system until that system strangles itself with its own contortions or belief in it is withdrawn, whichever comes first. Increased parity and efficiency are realized with the accession of each additional entity until universal inclusion is achieved. Each person is automatically assigned an index that gives access to food, housing, education and healthcare. Personal index is increased by life stage, training, skills and accomplishments, affording access to levels beyond basic needs.

EFFECTS
There are no monetary limits. No budgets, no debt, no banks, no inflation, no price distortions. There will be less government, less corruption, less crime. Land ownership will revert eventually to occupancy rights. With basic needs guaranteed, many will no longer work at jobs. Traditional jobs are becoming obsolete anyway. People will choose vocations. It is a means to advance their indices. Every service rendered is rewarded. Each corporate entity likewise is assigned a base index that allows access to infrastructure and services. All corporate entities are by definition non-profit. Businesses compete and prosper by offering superior goods and services thereby increasing their corporate index with concomitant access to higher levels of goods and services.

Everyone counts. Everything is counted.

Recent Posts

New indicator needed

Just came across the work of Eric Zencey. In a 2009 NYT article he calls for

… a new measurement, one that more accurately signals changes in the level of economic well-being we enjoy … an indicator that will tell us if we are really and truly gaining ground in the perennial struggle to improve the material conditions of our lives.

He’s at Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont  compiling an updated Genuine Progress Indicator for Vermont for implementation as an alternative policy and budgeting instrument in the state.

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